Finishing with a flourish: Duke routs Temple behind Jones, Rahming

Duke’s Cutcliffe: ‘Nothing Daniel Jones does surprises me.’

Duke Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe addresses the play of quarterback Daniel Jones in their 56-27 win over the Temple Owls in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, Louisiana on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.
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Duke Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe addresses the play of quarterback Daniel Jones in their 56-27 win over the Temple Owls in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, Louisiana on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.

Duke senior wide receiver TJ Rahming knew Thursday’s Independence Bowl would complete his college career.

Redshirt junior quarterback Daniel Jones combined with Rahming to put on a performance that might just put a bow on his Blue Devil career as well.

With NFL scouts on hand, Jones threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns -- two to Rahming -- as the Blue Devils routed Temple 56-27 at Independence Stadium.

Projected as a first-round pick if he chooses to leave Duke early and enter the NFL Draft, Jones set Independence Bowl records for passing yards and touchdown passes. He helped Duke, which once trailed 20-7, score on seven consecutive possessions from the second quarter into the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils scored the game’s final 42 points.

Rahming closed his career catching 12 passes for an Independence Bowl record 240 yards. Duke amassed 563 yards of total offense.

The Blue Devils (8-5) won their third consecutive bowl game for the first time in program history.

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Duke’s defense played without starting linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys, who were both out with knee injuries. After Temple led 27-21 at halftime, the Owls (8-5) were held to just 27 yards in the third quarter when the Blue Devils took control of the game.

Duke trailed 27-21 at halftime before regaining the lead after the second half kickoff

Jones completed five of six passes on a 59-yard scoring drive, including three to Rahming. Jones’ 1-yard run put Duke ahead 28-27.

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones set two Independence Bowl passing records in leading the Blue Devils to a 56-27 win over the Temple Owls on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.

Jones and Rahming hooked up again for a even bigger play a little less than four minutes later. From the Duke 15, Jones zipped the ball over the middle where Rahming made a nice catch in stride. He never slowed down and was never touched by the Temple defense on an 85-yard touchdown play that put Duke up 35-27 with 7:28 left in the third quarter.

Duke wide receiver T.J. Rahming (3) hauls in a touchdown pass reception against Temple during the first half of the Independence Bowl Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. Rogelio V. Solis AP

After Temple turned the ball over on downs at the Duke 32, Jones and the Blue Devils kept rolling to add to their lead.

Jones completed four more passes on the scoring drive, including a 7-yard strike to freshman wide receiver Jake Bobo for a 42-27 Duke lead.

Meanwhile, Duke’s defense limited Temple to just 27 yards in the third quarter. When the Owls attempted to punt late in the half, the snap hit one of their upbacks and the Blue Devils recovered at the Temple 10.

That allowed Duke to add another score, on Brittain Brown’s 4-yard run, to give it touchdowns on six consecutive possessions and a 49-27 lead with 14:55 to play.

Duke started the game solidly as its defense, despite having no senior starters, forced a three-and-out on Temple’s first possession.

Duke’s first two plays were Deon Jackson runs that netted 12 yards. Jones then found a wide-open Rahming down the right sideline for a 62-yard gain to the Temple 3.

Quentin Harris’ 2-yard touchdown run on third down gave Duke a 7-0 lead.

Temple responded by scoring 20 consecutive points with its defense and special teams doing the heavy lifting.

On the kickoff after the Duke touchdown, All-American kick returner Isaiah Wright’s 74-yard return gave the Owls a jolt.

Starting from the Duke 26, Temple needed five plays to tie the game. Russo ran 15 yards for a touchdown and a 7-7 score.

Jones was hit while throwing an interception on Duke’s next possession and limped to the bench favoring an ankle. Harris replaced him and, completing to passes and scrambling for an 11-yard gain, moved Duke into Temple territory.

But Harris’ screen pass on third down was intercepted by Delvon Randall and returned 52 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point kick missed and Temple lead 13-7 at 5:42 of the first quarter.

Brandon Feamster recorded his first career interception for Duke but the Blue Devils were unable to get a first down and punted it back to Temple.

When Jones threw his first interception and Duke’s second at the 13:38 mark of the second quarter, the Owls built on their lead.

Jones tried to loft a pass over the defense to Johnathan Lloyd but Temple’s Linwood Crump picked off the wobbly pass at the Temple 42.

Russo completed a pair of third-down passes to keep the drive going. Rob Ritrovato’s 1-yard touchdown run gave Temple a 20-7 lead.

Duke finally broke its scoring drought when Jones completed five passes in a row, including a 34-yard pass to a wide-open Chris Taylor for a touchdown that left Temple up 20-14.

Russo matched Jones, through, completing all five passes he threw on a 79-yard touchdown drive. His 8-yard pass to Brodrick Yancy gave Temple a 27-14 lead.

Duke cut into the lead again on a drive where the Blue Devils needed a Harris 1-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Blue Devils 34 to maintain possession.

Jones rolled left and found Lloyd for a 29-yard gain into Temple territory on the next play.

Jones’ 22-yard pass over the middle to Rahming for a touchdown with 1:11 left in the half sliced Temple’s lead to 27-21 at halftime.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.